Saturday, January 07, 2006


I went to the Cinema to see Munich last night and I have to say I was wowed. Spielberg uses the fact that this is a Spielberg film to constantly surprise you. When you watch a Spielberg film, you only expect things to go so far. It's almost disturbing when he takes them a step further. (This was a terribly gory movie in a very realistic sense, and there's boobies and penis' in it too.)

Everything about the film was just solid and tight.

I'm curious to see how the controversy surrounding the film plays out though. It really does put the Israelies and the Palestinians on the same moral playing field, which I'm sure will upset some. And there's also a correlation there between Americans and Iraqi insurgents. No one is just a mindless monster in this senseless killing, regardless of which side they are on. Everyone has an agenda and they believe God is on their side. I think the film sort of illustrates that it's all nonsense, regardless of the perpetrator.

It also gives you a good dose of the "Violence begets Violence" theme. Attacking someone in retaliation for an attack is going to cause them to retaliate. It's an endless cycle.

I would highly recommend the movie to someone looking to blow three hours and learn a little something.


Peter said...

You said: "...and there's boobies and penis in it too."

And then you said: "Everything about the film was just solid and tight."



Peter said...

Okay, so now a few real words about this movie. I saw it about a week ago.

There is a reason why people are calling Munich Spielberg's best film. It will probably win the Oscar (et al) for best picture (et al).

This is unlike anything Spielberg has ever done. Sure, it's as meaty and gritty as Schindler's List, but a Monet is not a Picasso is not a Warhoff. This is easily Spielberg's most original film. Even John Williams' music is refreshingly unidentifiable.

The cinematography is stikingly 70s, from the framing and far away zooms (i.e. from the top of a hotel balcony on to the dining area down below) to the dress, hair, etc. The world of this film is so solidly created. It just doesn't have the stamp of anything Spielberg has ever done. Almost no shot, scene or sequence remotely resembles anything I've seen from a Spielberg before. In fact, I'm not sure what I could compare this film to.

(I guess there was a Spielbergian moment for me: "Receipts!")

The first act is so perfect and so tight and is even chiasmic in that the point of attack matches the turning point. The second act is episodic (self-contained sequences with their own beginning, middle and end) and engaging enough for the film to end with no strong climax. Yet there is a climax at the end of the film. And it is surreal, moving, disturbing and powerful.

One element of these episodes, bothered me, though, and that was that the conflict in each episode was pretty much the same:

1. Somebody unexpectedly shows up
2. Is the bomb going to work properly
3. Gee, this guy just might be somewhat decent afterall; sure hate to kill him

I have been saying that Jarhead had the best climax I've seen all year. Well, that was in 2005. If I had seen Munich in 2005, Munich would have trumped it. I can say with confidence that Munich will probably be the best climax I will see in 2006. (The climax should be viewed in terms of theme, not character. People may miss it.)

The climactic themes of both movies are strikingly similar. The theme is so subtle you won't notice it without careful attention. Both films equate the cause of war with male sexuality. In film, sex and violence are narrative tools. Both are at the core of our existence: the way we come into the world, and the way we go out of it. This coin is a frightening often unexpressed region of our psyche.

Survival is the most violent act on the planet. But most of us are several steps removed from the survival threshhold. We don't see the inside of slaughterhouses. We don't ride on public buses in Palestine. We don't storm Baghdad with guns. We are insulated from the brutality.

A stronger, more obvious theme of the film, of course, is the idea of identity and of home.

In reading the rottentomatoes clips for Munich, it seems as though if people disagree politically, all the sudden it's a bad movie. WTF?

Furthermore, upon what stone is it written that the central characters of films must always be sympathetic? Sure, I agree that's the norm. But is it divine command? I still found the movie well-done, entertaining, thought-provoking, etc.

The final shot (do you remember it) just hit me like a canon. I don't think it was a cheap shot. I thought it was brilliant. And the reality of that shot is: this whole conflict is still far from over; 9/11 just opened the door a little wider and invited a third-party culture right into the ring.

Here are some of the RC criticisms:

"Do we need another handsome, well-assembled, entertaining movie to prove that we all bleed red?"

I find this comment ridiculously subjective and normative and therefore irritatingly ignorant. Review the film on its own laurels, independent from the context of recent releases.

"If this is a valid detailing of how the Israelis actually operate, then its primary virtue is in that revelation because sympathetic involvement isn't much provided by the script."

And yet, isn't that how it is? The majority of Americans don't really know what's going on in the Middle East. The fact is, we don't know who to sympathize with. Our government tends to sporadically sympathize with anyone who presents themselves as the go-to nation du jour. But otherwise, we are just shown the events in a mostly objecetive and descriptive way. A didactic piece of propaganda, this film is not. Otherwise, people would have said it was "Jew friendly," or something.

"You cannot make a convincing case against terrorism by showing one graphic scene after another of cold-blooded murder."

On the contrary, I believe you can. And I believe Spielberg did. That's the whole point. It's just misguided, unsympathetic anger, funded by huge powers for various reasons.